Imagine looking at the Bengal tiger in a landscaped glass-fronted enclosure, or the Sloth bear in an open enclosure separated only by a moat right here in Mumbai.
How about a tram or a toy train to take you on your ride to the zoo that has animal shows, exhibitions and recreation center (on its periphery)?
This can be reality if Mumbai gets an `open-zoo’ modeled on the lines of Singapore zoo.
Just back from a junket to visit the Singapore Zoo, the forest department delegation headed by forest minister Babanrao Pachpute is looking at a make-over for both Mumbai and Nagpur zoos.
For Mumbai, the byculla zoo will have to be transferred to Goregaon on 300-400 acres of Aarey Milk Colony land.
If the preliminary report submitted by Neela Satyanarayan, principal secretary (Forest) to the forest and finance ministers is anything to go, these zoo reforms – autonomous body to head the zoo, huge investment, Government of India permission – will require all the political will and finances to see it through.
`The first phase of the zoo may cost around Rs 5 crore. For the entire investment estimate (it’s huge) we will invite a zoo specialist like Bernard Harrison to survey both the sites and make recommendations,’’ said Satyanarayan.
The Singapore zoo, that Harrison as a former CEO of Singapore Zoological Gardens, helped run for 20 years was set up in 1973 with US $9 million from the Singapore government
It gets 45 per cent of its revenues from the admission fees. If Mumbai has to follow this model, projected cost of a ticket to the zoo would be a whopping Rs 750.
The report hence has called for corporate and private sponsorship for the project and recommended implementation in phases.
Harrison, former CEO and a consultant, specialist in setting up modern zoos has pointed out to the delegation that the project will take 3-5 years to set up.
The delegation of forest officials will head to South Africa in January; they also plan to visit Coppenhagen, Berlin and London zoos.
"I have been advocating a modern zoo for both Mumbai and Nagpur for long. We will take the lead and look at investment options for the make-over. Mumbai needs new tourism options,’’ said finance minister and guardian minister of Mumbai Jayant Patil.
Hurdles in getting an open zoo to Mumbai-
· Requires 300-400 acres of land from Aarey Milk Colony to transfer the zoo from Byculla
· Investment will require private sponsorships and patronage from corporates
· An autonomous body of industry representatives, technical experts to run the zoo
· Permission from Government of India and Supreme Court to make way for certain non-forestry, non-conservation activities on forest land.